Orange County Seal

Published: Sept. 30, 2014 Updated: Oct. 1, 2014 6:40 a.m.

Orange County supervisors Tuesday approved increasing the number of passengers allowed at John Wayne Airport by 9.2 percent within six years and permitting 10 more flights a day.

The changes will start in 2021, when the county will permit the additional 10 daily departures, on average. The planes involved are the noisiest allowed at the transit hub.

Under the plan, the maximum number of passengers allowed at the airport by 2035 could grow to 12.5 million annually if airlines meet goals for filling planes.

The move softens original regulations imposed on the airport resulting from a 1985 lawsuit against airport expansion plans.

Supervisor John Moorlach said Tuesday the agreement includes “no expansion at the airport.” But he said that if the deal didn’t give a little, it’s possible Orange County’s strict restrictions – which allows the airport to remain outside current federal noise regulations – could be thrown out entirely.

“We didn’t want to be so rigid and have it thrown out and maybe lose everything, so we wanted to be very smart about what we’re doing,” said Moorlach, whose district includes Newport Beach. “It is part of our economic base, and it’s something we want to work with in a balanced, fair and appropriate way.”

The 1985 settlement produced an agreement that predated federal noise regulations enacted in 1990 and allowed Orange County to continue to impose its own noise restrictions. Those federal laws largely kept communities from imposing overnight curfews, Supervisor Todd Spitzer said.

This is the second time the 1985 restrictions have been loosened. The last time was in 2003.

Moorlach’s assertion that the airport wouldn’t get bigger didn’t satisfy Jim Mosher, a Newport Beach resident since 1980 who was the only person to voice opposition Tuesday.

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